The Grand Hotel Excelsior, Valletta
What’s so special?
This luxury hotel in the Maltese capital of Valletta attracts the yachting set, thanks to its location by the ocean – it has its own handy marina for guests to use. But even if you don’t roll up in a yacht, it’s a lovely place to stay, with panoramic views across to the neighbouring islands, a great pool and private harbour-side terraces.
How they rate it
“The hotel is built almost into the bastion walls of Valletta between the capital and the sea,” says Juliet Rix in The Daily Telegraph. The modern rooms are all large and airy – “none less than 33 square metres” – and the sea view rooms are larger still, with French windows leading to individual balconies and terraces with fantastic views of “Valletta’s bastions (beautifully lit at night)”. It’s a great family hotel with “large swimming pools, including a children’s paddling pool”.
The buffet breakfast is “the best” in Malta, says Rix, with everything from scrambled eggs to pancakes to smoked tuna. Dinner options range from an international buffet to traditional Maltese food.
Prices start from €120 a night, with breakfast. For more, visit www.excelsior.com.mt, or call 00 356 2125 0520.
Xara Palace, Mdina
What’s so special?
The Xara Palace is full of character, thanks to its location within a 17th-century property in Mdina, the old capital of Malta. It’s excellent for a romantic break, with several rooms boasting private hot tubs on the terraces.
How they rate it
This is “Malta’s key celebrity hideaway”, says Simon Calder in The Independent. It forms part of the medieval bastions surrounding Mdina, notes Condé Nast Traveller, but there’s nothing medieval about the rooms, which offer “duck-down bedding, classic décor and a private jacuzzi with room for two”.
Better still, it is the only hotel in the city, so guests have the “atmospheric streets” to themselves “after the day trippers have left”, says Joanne O’Connor in The Guardian.
The fine-dining restaurant, de Mondion, is the star attraction. The terrace, “set on top of the old fortress walls, offers great views of the island”, says O’Connor.
As for the menu, expect “rich Mediterranean dishes, such as braised veal cheeks, roasted venison tenderloin, and stuffed saddle of rabbit”, says Tom Chesshyre in The Times. A less formal trattoria in the courtyard serves sandwiches, pasta and pizza.
Prices start from €130, room only. Jacuzzi suites cost from €320 per night. Find out more at www.xarapalace.com.mt, or call 00 356 2145 0560.
Hotels in natural beauty spots
The Grove in Narberth, Pembrokeshire (pictured) is “hugged by a wildflower meadow that blooms at its brightest between April and June”, says Laura Holt in The Independent.
Formerly a derelict house, it has been “brought back to life by local boy and first-time hotelier, Neil Kedward, who spent years restoring the former wreck and ramshackle grounds into one of Wales’ best hotels.
Go to wade through knee-height meadows… and spot butterflies dancing beside the pond”. And don’t miss out on dinner in the award-winning restaurant.
• Prices start from £180, B&B, for a double (Thegrove-narberth.co.uk; 01834-860915).
Fazenda Nova in the Algarve in Portugal is surrounded by ten acres “where almond and carob trees thrive, herb gardens grow and an olive grove produces oil for the farm each harvest”.
It is a short drive inland from the area’s fabulous beaches and the lagoons of the Ria Formosa nature reserve. “Spend days lolling about in the orchard or stroll down garden paths lined with lavender and rosemary bushes to find the pool.”
• Doubles start from €155, B&B (Fazendanova.eu; 00 351 281 961 913).
Auberge Ostapé in Pays Basque, France is “within reach” of Biarritz’s beaches and the “verdant slopes of the Pays Basque.” The 17th-century building, set in 100 acres, features 22 suites. Get a packed lunch from the chef, “then head out along the Way of St James pilgrimage route, past wild rose bushes, hydrangea and tulips, to the foothills of the Pyrénées”.
• From €170, room only (Ostape.com; 00 33 559 379 191).